Looking Ahead: October 19th

Empress Of-Us

Young producer and songwriter Lorely Rodriguez continues her rise with an inspired collection of moods ranging from self doubt and loss to emboldened bliss.

Neneh Cherry-Broken Politics

Longstanding legend of experimental and neo-soul links up with Four Tet for a laid back but vivid collection.

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Armand Hammer-Paraffin: Album Review

I get the sense that billy woodz and ELUCID see themselves as somewhat of a dying breed.  Whether it be the fact that they’re black, underground rappers in this dark period of Brooklyn gentrification, or the fact that their music doesn’t really concern itself with anything but biting rapping in this time of rap-singing; the pair stand out and sonically and lyrically paint a fleeting and violent picture of a world about to dissipate.

In the past, ELUCID has referred to his neighborhood as “the final frontier of gentrification” and equally dark, sarcastic couplets like woodz’s “onion powder only thing on they spice rack/but cats act like Quinton on his way” or even ELUCID’s candid mention of an “Urban green space” liter the work.  Complemented by a dense and vivid cacophony of buzzing electricity and loose jazz–and that one wandering Frank Ocean sample–the world they paint is all parts brooding and dark, making every word, no matter how esoteric, feel cataclysmic.  At first glance, the pair’s chemistry–and slight vocal similarity–makes them sound like one hive-mind finishing its own sentences, which is perhaps the source of the work’s propulsion.  Song structures, refrains, verses, and samples all melt into one another for a jolting singular feel throughout its run time.

Not unlike milo’s project from last month, Paraffin is hard to quantify, but the pair’s intensity keeps each listen on the edge of its seat and you can bet that these two will have plenty more to say just about every time they link up.

-Donovan Burtan

7.5/10

 

 

Kero Kero Bonito-Time ‘n’ Place: Album Review

Maybe you were an introverted city kid; a kid from the ‘burbs who can only relate to people online; or, like me, a kid in a cow town with no sidewalks stuck inside most of the time.  Time ‘n’ Place is probably relatable to all of these experiences, but I get the impression that Sarah Bonito’s teenage years were about the same as mine.  I mean I literally could’ve written “Dump” because I used to go to the town dump for my parents every Saturday and that hazy feeling of seeing people you vaguely know toss a bunch of shit they don’t need is…specific.

However, throughout the album, Bonito deals with the impasse of spending most of your time indoors, wondering about the city, maybe finding oneself online, or imagining that future when you’re finally surrounded by emotional supportive friends who share your interests and working at your dream job. Then, of course, there’s the dreaded idea of finding a balance between being the person you are at home around people at school and finding a way to disappear into the ether of high school. Time ‘n’ Place doesn’t completely erase the extreme take on buoyant joy of the band’s past, but the group finds an ounce of anxiety with every feeling of bliss as they grow up sonically and emotionally.

Kero Kero Bonito is a wild pop outfit that’s been gradually growing into a real band over the course of the past five years or so.  Their first “hit” was called Flamingo, an absurdly camp-minded song about being whatever color you want even though all flamingos are pink?  It seemingly came out of no where, but the band nonetheless rode the PC music hype to somewhat of a real platform for the release of 2016’s Bonito Generation, a continuation of the camp spirit of the band’s early singles, but with a near-violent approach to pop music–standout “Trampoline” jolts into a chorus as if Death Grips produced the next Carly Rae Jepsen single.

Overall, it’s probably good that Kane West [sic] and wharfwhit have picked up drums and guitars to bring the band in a new direction as the band’s older material might be just an ounce to immature for lasting appeal.  Look at SOPHIE, her old material is interesting and super important for the development of her brand of music, but the heart wrenching stuff of “Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides” is really what makes her undeniably important and everlasting.  Still, the band retains enough child-like awe for its own good and should appeal to the day one fans.

Take single “Make Believe,” for instance.  Ostentatiously a song about day dreaming, the blissed out sound is basically prototypical KKB, but the lyricism brings in a new darkness as the make believing can only last so long because real life will get in the way.  Bonito eventually comes to the conclusion that her escapist fantasies will never come to fruition in the way she thought the might as a young child, but they’re nonetheless a healthy way to deal with the monotony of every day life.

“Only Acting” sees the band embracing another requirement of the indoor quasi-suburbs existence–listening to Weezer.  That guitar solo, that key change–these things are happy as can be until it all comes crashing down in the disintegrated no-wave of the end of the song.  These lyrics are likely the band’s best to date.  At the surface, there’s the idea of being in theater and needing to manufacture a specific set of emotions.  As a young teen, especially, this can be difficult as you don’t even really understand all of these emotions in the first place.  Then, there’s the backdrop of suburbia.  Here, you’re forced to embody a specific box and although you may believe that you’re just putting on a face to avoid discrimination in the anti-judgement free zone of your hometown, you also wonder if these limitations will become permanent and you’ll never truly express yourself.  With the way the song comes crashing down, this terror is made visceral and literal, a true highlight of the new era of KKB.

Elsewhere, the band breaks the fourth wall a bit to open discussion between Sarah today and Sarah of yesterday on “Dear Future Self;” embraces communal despair with what sounds like classroom instruments for “Sometimes;” and again punches my childhood experience in the face with the freedom found in “Swimming.” (Something very freeing about water IDK).

I’m sure I’m projecting a lot, but whether or not Time ‘n’ Place relates exactly to one’s childhood experience, the nuanced songwriting and adventurous take on pop music ought to impress anyone the band hasn’t gotten to yet.

-Donovan Burtan

8.5/10

Marie Davidson-Working Class Woman: Album Review

You know she’s kidding when she starts off “Work It” with simply “you wanna know how I get away with everything? I work, alllll the FUCKING time.”  Like much of her new album, Marie Davidson says this with such drawling dead-pan tone you don’t exactly know how you’re supposed to react to it.  However, between her staple role in Montreal band Essai Pas and a litany of solo projects and collaborations, Davidson is legitimately one of hardest working people in electronic music today.

Over the course of the decade she’s honed her dynamic brand of French techno sounds all while being critical of her position in the world, knowing that club culture can have its faults from the harmless fake fans to the more terrifying lack of real concern for people’s health and, particularly, women’s safety.  Working Class Women is a pointed answer to an age where capitalism has turned even feminism into a grounds for commodification and destruction of women’s autonomy all while continuing to break new sonic ground for the creative electronic musician.

The idea of a woman’s work is an important battle ground at this point in time.  Women are thankfully no longer limited to the house wife role, however, we also live in the gig economy where everyone is their own boss and nobody has health insurance and certain publications and advertisements are acting like it’s inspiring if women (and any lower class person) go to hell and back everyday so they can become a “doer.”

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On “Work it,” in particular, Davidson sounds like this dubious rhetoric, but she places a critical lens on it with the tenacity of the violent sonic environment and the aforementioned sarcasm.  This theme permeates the album.

Opener “Your Biggest Fan” sees Davidson facing a lot of questions from a fake fan including one particularly jarring line where the character wonders if she really needs all the equipment she carries around.  Whether it be the literal musical experience of dealing with sound dudes who don’t believe the women coming to their venue actually know what they’re talking about, or perhaps the reactions to a young female journalist’s admittedly flawed take on the Aziz Ansari story, Women are facing this dichotomy of needing to become workaholics while simultaneously being side-eyed in their work as if they cannot handle the tasks they are doing.  Despite seeing the absence of Davidson’s vocals, plainly title “Paranoid Workaholic Bitch” sees this in its full-throttle violent energy.

Another point of discussion in today’s mainstream is Mental Health.  Another seemingly well-intentioned battle ground, Mental Health is somewhat of a SEO buzzword that capitalism has gnashed its fangs into in recent years.  Speaking with a disembodied male voice, Davidson repeats the work “Crazy” constantly and also flirts with insanity: “you like it when it’s insane?”  I’m sure this doesn’t literally sound like anyone’s therapy appointments now, but the idea of the manic pixie dream girl still permeates much of our media so modern women tend to be faced with another contradictory notion as they must both be well versed in mental health issues as well as unhinged and fun in the dating game.

It could even be more autobiographical than that as we’re living in an era where these mental health concerns can also creep into our analysis of pop stars and performers.  I won’t dive into the complicated stupidity of 2018 Kanye, but even in the Yeezus era there were ideas that West was losing it and this was reflected in his jarring music–and don’t get me started on the rhetorical sludge that surrounds musicians who have fallen victim to suicide.  Davidson’s live shows carry a certain tenacity so, I’m sure people have thought it reflected a crazed person letting entirely loose with their art–an ideal that simply wouldn’t be sustainable with the rigorous (read: workaholic) touring schedule of the modern performer.

The album can be tied specifically into Davidson’s experience, but it also addresses contemporary culture in a more sweeping way and thankfully there’s room for fun in there too.  Whether you want to feel the overwhelming weight of the day, or head-bang it away, Working Class Woman has you covered.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10

 

 

 

Tim Hecker-Konoyo: Album Review

There’s a variety of reactions to ambient music.  A genre that values waltzing around in a beautifully detailed but static–and of course, meterless–place, sometimes listening to an album can take its inhabitants on a emotional journey and other times the effect is more singular as if the listener has been staring at the same painting for an hour.  Crafting an especially textured landscape, Tim Hecker’s Konoyo feels like a group of lines coalescing to a center that doesn’t exist.  The bowels of Hecker’s deep, electronically crafted bass sounds swirl against dancing, high strings from the work of Japan’s Konoyo ensemble, all seemingly swept up into the fog of Hecker’s higher frequency electronic sounds.  The work is breathtaking and emotionally charged in it’s melodic choices, perhaps not making its fans into different people, but validating the ebb and flow of their introspection.

Now, of course this album has a more nuanced roadmap than say “The Disintegration Loops.”  The communication between Hecker and the rest of the ensemble is quite varied despite also achieving a somewhat singular emotive collage throughout.  We hear swells of Hecker’s bass sound accompanied by gestures from the instrumentalists at the very beginning and the two simultaneously increase and decrease their intensity throughout This Life, making for a natural, breathing effect.  The two musical forces are not joined at the hip for the whole album of course, there’s places where Hecker is alone, supplying a heave of electronic lights, and elsewhere the ensemble is left to its own devices.  Inflected with drums, the group can supply plenty of noise to stand on their own and particularly towards the tail end of In Mother Earth Phase, it’s as if the group is creating the sound of the beginning of the work acoustically.

As we continue to move into a new era in Hecker–one in which the synth mastermind scavenges the diverse world of instrumental world music to find new sounds to synthesize in his vision–we see how willing the composer is to adapt without losing his voice.  Konoyo is a new color for the musician to explore but even as his imprint shifts in and out of focus, the album maintains all of the qualities that make his work so capturing and forward thinking.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10

Lil Wayne-Tha Carter V: Album Review

Tha Carter V is finally here.  For those who live under a rock, the Carter series is the flagship album series for Lil Wayne, former 9 year old rapping in New Orleans turned member of Hot Boys rapping on classic Mannie Fresh beats and later, seemingly out of no where, one of the biggest pop stars in the world right around 2008 with the release of Tha Carter III.  With lawsuits and a falling out with former mentor Birdman, Wayne has been largely absent in the 2010s, save some guest spots, but he has finally emerged truly on his own terms at the age of 36. 

Rap has changed immensely since Wayne’s prime, but honestly his influence may be more present than ever.  Lil Uzi’s “New Patek” certainly exists in a post-Wayne society as the rapper warbles his way through the anxieties of his come-up in a haphazard autotune approach, but at the macrolevel: Rap is relentlessly Southern at this point, which of course dates back to the famous Outkast quote, but Wayne’s willingness to pull beats and styles from all over the place can’t be erased from this move.  There’s Florida’s domination of Soundcloud, Travis Scott’s Houston tributes on the adventurous “Astroworld,” and Swizz Beats and Zaytoven’s strangle hold on the radio environment.  There’s exceptions of course—Cardi B repping the East Coast at the moment and Kendrick Lamar West—but even these two titans carry an ounce of Wayne between Lamar’s raw emotional honesty, and Cardi’s virtuosic braggadocio.  Wayne for sure sounds dated, but the world has perhaps caught up to HIM in his absence and a comfort zone approach might be the best possible use of his talents in 2018.

This isn’t to say that Wayne’s famed improvisational approach and lack of major editing don’t result in blemishes.  The album is ambitiously long with some obvious oversites—use of the word r*tarded, an xxxtentacion feature, and the usual instances of misogyny—but instead of trying desperately to cling to anything, Wayne just does him (I’m on a diet from the fake beef) and makes a breezy collection of songs over a variety of production with biting rhymes that seemingly never slow down.

Square one of the album should be “Uproar.” A lot has been made of the album’s reveal that Wayne’s self inflicted gunshot wound, long rumored to be an accident, was actually a suicide attempt and the weightiness of that confession sends off the album on a intensely stark and somber note, but the album has enough fun for it’s own good and a lot of the blemishes come when Wayne is trying too hard to craft emotional swells.  Kendrick Lamar sporting “Mona Lisa,” for instance, is haunted by a dishonest lover and let’s just say that it’s a blessing that we didn’t get Lamar’s “U” voice screaming at a woman character on DAMN.  “Uproar” is clean and easy though as the pointed hook “what the fuck though/where the love go” rides the uptempo vibes and crowd noise to impassioned and funny bars: “Swizzy, you a chef, I like my lunch gross.”

Later on, Wayne follows up on the “Uproar” promise with more grade-A bangers.  “Dope N****z” features a classic Snoop Dogg verse as the two take pride in their origins: “I grew up around Dope N****z.  “Hittas” comes through with some pillowy soul sounds and lethal bass drums, followed by the uplifting hook “Mama said god took his time when he made me” on the next track.  “Start This Shit Off Right” of course sounds like about 2004, but Ashanti brings the vocals to make it endearing.  The beginning of the work may spark worries that it would drown in darkness, but Wayne lets loose for most of the album.

The album isn’t all fun and games and it doesn’t entirely suffer in moments of self-seriousness.  Of course, Wayne speaking openly about his suicide attempt over a cathartic Sampha sample is beautiful and elsewhere we hear some of Nicki Minaj’s best vocals to date on the sweet “Dark Side of the Moon” and songs like “Famous” and “Mess” give us a glance at the continuous day to day anxieties of Wayne the superstar who’s far too deep into fame for anyone’s good.

Lil Wayne is already in the history books and although Carter V might not be the moment that got him there, it shows that the stories not written in stone just yet.

-Donovan Burtan

8/10